By on December 5, 2016

2017 Mazda CX-5 soul red crystal - Image: Mazda USA

Mazda has big aspirations for the future. However, its immediate plans don’t appear to include a successor to the RX-8, despite Mazda’s continued development on its trademark rotary engine and other conflicting information.

Instead, CEO Masamichi Kogai says the company is going to focus on its push upmarket while diversifying powertrains and cementing itself as the sporting choice over its rivals.

Speaking to Automotive News with the help of an interpreter, Mr. Kogai explained his vision of Mazda’s more upscale future.

“We want to distinguish ourselves by being a little elevated above the other Japanese or mainstream brands,” he said.

“If the car itself is not attractive, we can’t command a higher price. So, for the Mazda 3, the Mazda 6 and the CX-3, they will all have major updates. And the CX-5 is undergoing a full model change. In that way, we keep improving the models all the time. Instead of just creating a buzz to come see a new design, we enhance the vehicle’s potential in performance and technology. That is something new we are implementing.”

Part of that implementation pertains to the company’s next generation of Skyactiv drivetrains, which include a diesel option on next year’s CX-5.

While the diesel version of the crossover will be coming to the United States, Kogai suspects most diesel sales will continue taking place in Japan.

“In the U.S., diesel is not necessarily the cheaper option. It’s about 8 percent more expensive than gasoline. But compared with high-octane gasoline, diesel is cheaper. We still have to pinpoint where people can find the advantage in buying diesel,” he explained.

Inevitably, Mazda’s partnership with Toyota will produce an electric powertrain too. The company thinks the safest play is to keep EV production at a low-volume and not abandon combustion engines too quickly. Mazda’s Head of Research and Development Kiyoshi Fujiwara asserts that by 2020, “five to ten percent of the market will be pure EV, while the rest will still use ICE. Therefore ICE is [currently] the most important technology in the world.”

Kogai’s take seems to be that electrification is inevitable and important for Mazda, especially in the form of its own unique hybrid. The company has long been hinting that the rotary engine might make a return — if not in the hypothetical RX-9, as a range extender for some type of EV.

“We ended production of the RX-8 with the rotary engine,” Kogai stated. “But if we were to restart production of the rotary engine again, we need to make sure it wouldn’t be just short-lived. We need it to meet future emissions regulations. We are still conducting our R&D activity to overcome any issues we have with emissions and fuel efficiency.”

When asked if the rotary would see the light of day as a supplemental power source for an EV or as a primary drivetrain first, he said that the zero-emissions vehicle mandate made electrification the clear priority. Kogai didn’t even suggest the rotary as a practical stand-alone option, not even in a possible RX car.

“I think that as a sports car option, the MX-5 1.5-liter or 2.0-liter conventional engine, with its power and acceleration, might be a more exhilarating experience.”

Putting the the final nail into the RX-9’s coffin was his single word response to if there were any plans to introduce a sports car larger than the MX-5.


[Image: Mazda]

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51 Comments on “Mazda CEO Explains Strategy While Simultaneously Breaking the Hearts of Rotary Fanboys Everywhere...”

  • avatar

    “1.5-liter or 2.0-liter conventional engine, with its power and acceleration”

    Mazda gonna Mazda.

  • avatar

    I guess it’s good to hear they won’t be blowing money they don’t have on an RX-9 they’d lose even more money on, but what’s the point of further rotary development at all?

    I’m just not seeing the notoriously fuel-inefficient, poor-emissions, short-durability rotary as a great use-case as an EV range-extender. It’s lightweight, yes, but has so many other drawbacks that I don’t see the point. (At least the low torque isn’t an issue.)

    The way forward for Mazda right now is to keep making those nice CUVs, and maybe share car development costs with FCA.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree they should not bring out a rotary, they are just too small to have a flop.

      As to reliability I had a rotary and a turbo 4 and it was the Japanese turbo 4 that lunched its engine. The Rotary kept on purring until I sold it for something more practical.

      A hybrid rotary in a larger sports car could be a compelling vehicle but again they just don’t have the money to put towards a halo car.

      I nice sport sedan or wagon would be appreciated.

      • 0 avatar

        Mazda could have the wagon market all to itself if it wanted it. The 6 exists in other markets, but they won’t bring it here.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          I hear Buick is bringing the wagon variant of the next Insignia over, so a Mazda6 wagon would have some overlap with that product.

          But, yeah, there aren’t really any wagons larger than compact anymore, definitely none in the mainstream arena. The Audi allroad is fairly cavernous, but it’s still compact. I think the only one is the E-Class wagon.

        • 0 avatar

          This would be nice. I’d seriously consider a Mazda 6 wagon. Maybe as a replacement for my Volvo V60. But, then again, I really would like to see how far the V60 will go (I haven’t checked lately, but I think it must have more than 80k miles on it by now). We’ll see, I also might like the diesel CX-5.

        • 0 avatar

          TMA1, The Mazda USA guys are still smarting from the 1st-gen Mazda6 wagon. The internet wanted it, Mazda brought it over, and no one bought it. They don’t trust us anymore.

        • 0 avatar

          Nobody wants wagons here. It’s a smart move. Mazda was one of the last mainstream wagon holdouts. A CX-5 will drive just as well and be way more practical.

          • 0 avatar

            I do, but not a Mazda. A Giulia based Dodge or a A4 Avant.

          • 0 avatar

            @sportyaccordy A CX-5 has less internal volume than the equivalent 6 wagon, and has a much higher center of gravity. I haven’t driven either, but I doubt your last two claims.

          • 0 avatar

            Can’t sleep in the back of a CX-5…..

            And neither does it handle nearly as well as a well sorted wagon. Especially at speeds much above Japanese ones.

            What CUVs, particularly the CX-5, does do, is handle “well enough” in a way traditional SUVs never could. Particularly while running mommy mobile type errands, which rarely demands much in the way of composure through off camber corners at 80mph. Leaving the natural “wagon” market much smaller than it was even back in the SUV era.

      • 0 avatar

        The only wagon I’m interested in is the the King Daddy of wagons… The Plug-in Volvo V90.

    • 0 avatar

      “I’m just not seeing the notoriously fuel-inefficient, poor-emissions, short-durability rotary as a great use-case as an EV range-extender. ”

      I expect that they are trying to overcome some of those obstacles by coming up with a new design or refining existing designs. Keep in mind that Mazda didn’t say that was the plan, people asked them if it was a possibility. If they can solve some of those issues then they can have an ICE that provides more power per unit of displacement, which goes a long way towards their philosophy of doing more with less.

      • 0 avatar

        They *can’t* overcome those obstacles because those obstacles are inherent in the Wankel design.

        “then they can have an ICE that provides more power per unit of displacement,”

        That shouldn’t be a goal unto itself, because nobody but Internet bench racing fanboys (who can’t afford new cars) gives a crap about it. The simple fact is the last RX-8 got measurably worse fuel economy than the mustang GT which was 700 lbs heavier and had twice the horsepower.

        The Wankel engine is an inefficient little curiosity which belongs in a museum.

        • 0 avatar

          When I had my RX8 and people said they were thinking about getting one, I always laid out the truth in American terms:

          “Just keep in mind that it’s slower than a V6 but burns more gas than a V8.”

          Sublime handling is not a quantifiable metric, and even if it was, it’s not one that the typical American shopper cares about.

          • 0 avatar

            So true, handling is like 10th on a customer’s 1 to 5 list of things a car must do well. Other then obvious general-terms things like its too stiff, feels tippy in turns, or plows massively (understeer) you really can’t tell much about a car’s handling unless you put it on a track and push its limits. Well that is a pretty niche market and everyone who plays there already bought a 5 year old Miata and stripped the interior, or went all out on a ‘Vette, M3 or 911.

            If there is one car I almost never see on track its an RX8. Its seem most people ran the numbers (like me) and just went for something else with a V6 or bigger. Most the RX products I do see on track are old project cars that have been heavily tuned… and there is no mistaking that sound.

  • avatar

    All this talk about “upscale” and “sporting” and not a single mention of mazdaspeed? I mean, yes, Miata is a big seller, but really?

    They’re zoom, zooming right off my list..

    • 0 avatar

      The brand is zoom zoom zooming away from relevance.

    • 0 avatar
      Ol Shel

      I’m not seeing new Miatas on the road. The bulk of Miata drivers do not care about its dynamics. They care about it’s cute look and drop-top, and this version really blows the look. It’s not cute and friendly, and it’s too small to have the angry, bad-ass look the designers wanted. The original hit (copied) a great balance that appealed to men and women. This one doesn’t.

      I’m hoping they revise the front and ASAP.

    • 0 avatar

      Zoom Zoom has kept Mazda a bit player. As has all this spending on motorsports. I love that they do it, but they can also see how Subaru seemingly flipped a switch on when their focus shifted from rallying to “Love: What Makes a Subaru a Subaru”.

    • 0 avatar
      Daniel J

      Bring the wagons. They won’t sell enough to make profit. Bring the v6. Again, won’t sell enough to make profit.

      What percent of Honda Accords sold are V6? What percent of Camrys sold are V6? Can they make money off a turbo 4 or V6 Mazda 6 or Mazda 3? Probably not.

  • avatar

    The Wankel shortcomings have always been efficiency (fuel econ) and emissions. Given US regs, no surprise it has no future here.

    As for their pass car diesel, his statement says it all: “We still have to pinpoint where people can find the advantage in buying diesel”.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t get what the problem is with pinpointing the price point. Cars like the CX-9 require 93-octane for maximum power and fuel economy (although it can run on 87). If Mazda is going to put out cars that drink premium, the diesel is the cheaper fuel of choice for those buyers (40-50 cents less than 93 in my area). Just don’t price the buy-in cost of the diesel too high, and Mazda will have customers.

    • 0 avatar

      The diesel appeal for me would be 310 lb*ft of torque and 52 mpg.

      I want that in my CX-3.

    • 0 avatar

      “Given US regs, no surprise it has no future here.”

      and no future anywhere else, except oil producing countries with subsidized gas.

      I’ve heard that it isn’t so bad in high power situations, while piston engines are more efficient at such ranges, presumably there are more wear issues. So maybe it has a future as a range extender, who knows.

      Sadly, I think only one motorcycle had a wankel (and flopped). I don’t think anybody has made an aircraft grade wankel (despite more than a few homebuilders pulling it off). Cars never were its strong point.
      [how a wankel works, by engineering explained]
      [why the wankel had to die, by engineering explained]

      • 0 avatar

        Three motorcycles, off the top of my head: the Suzuki, a Hercules/DKW, and a couple variants of Nortons (said to be quite good).

      • 0 avatar

        The Hercules/DKW worked, but was made in such small numbers that it accomplished very little. Ditto the Van Veen (which may have used the same engine as the Hercules/DKW).

        The Suzuki was an absolute disaster. While reliable, it was a 500cc bike that cost more than any 1000cc in production at the time, had rather poor performance, and almost put Suzuki out of business, as they had bet the farm as the Wankel being the successor to all the Suzuki 2-stroke twins and triples that the company had made its reputation on. As a last gasp, they pretty much copied the Kawasaki DOHC in-line fours as a line of bikes, and they saved the company.

        Yamaha had a Wankel engined bike ready to go into production, but after watching the Suzuki debacle, quietly dropped the idea.

        The Norton Wankel was originally a BSA back in ’71, after BSA/Triumph collapsed and was gathered into Norton-Villiers-Triumph, the effort continued, finally resulting in a run of 100 or so air-cooled Wankel bikes in 1989. Once sold, the effort then went to a water-cooled bike which was successful at the Isle of Man in the early Ninties, but never really went into production on a mass scale. I believe it’s still in some form of development today.

        So, of all the Wankel efforts, only the Suzuki truly made mass production, and it almost tanked the entire company.

  • avatar

    Refine the 3 and add power to the 6. Then, they would have something.

  • avatar

    We got a football team in my state that’s a lot like Mazda: can’t win, won’t die, just makes its fans suffer.

    I’m mercifully not one of those fans.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Updates to the 3, 6 CX-3, and CX-5.

    No rotary (good), but they continue burning money on it for no apparent reason.

    No hybrid or EV in the near future.

    Mazda is in trouble, with no Great Thing to slow their loss of market share into oblivion. They’re already irrelevant. But to be fair, they outsell Chrysler, Buick, Audi, Cadillac, and Acura to name a few.

    • 0 avatar

      They are not sliding into oblivion. They are increasing sales globally, they make a profit and they have or are fixing all the legit criticism’s of the past (fuel inefficient, ugly, low or mainstream quality).

  • avatar

    “But compared with high-octane gasoline, diesel is cheaper.”

    I wish the masses understood this and the [other] auto manufacturers would acknowledge this. Not so much because I’m a fan of diesel, but because I tire of the growing requirement for premium fuel. The net $ to mile ratio isn’t worth it for premium.

    • 0 avatar

      When I bought my first Diesel in 2003, Diesel fuel where I am in southern New England was actually a bit cheaper than regular unleaded during the summer, and about the same as premium during the winter heating months, since home heating oil is king. During the economic meltdown, I was paying $4.99/gal. for Diesel, and until recently the price around here paralleled (or a little higher) than premium. This summer was the first time since probably 2008 or 2009 when the price was closer to regular gas.

  • avatar

    Mazda has been so bad at rust-proofing cars so recently that a lot of the US market wont even consider them. I wonder if there are any breakdowns of percentage of a brand sold per state for various brands? My impression of Mazda is that they lean heavily on California sales.

    • 0 avatar

      My impression is they mean on PA sales. We can all do anecdote. I do find they sell more when there is a decent local dealer.

    • 0 avatar

      In Australia they do not rust and Ford, GM, CHrysler all rust heavily and thats what matters.

    • 0 avatar

      My impression is that hardware (bolts, clamps) is worse than 15 years ago while body is better protected. But I believe it is more of a visual problem than integral. Yea, my Protege had rusted wheel wells but that after 13 years. Yea, the suspension looked like a one rusty mess but I have not needed to change any piece.

      What rusting the most in my ‘3 right now – the hood striker at its base

    • 0 avatar

      There are many who do not live in the salt belt, and so that has no effect on what they buy.

      Rusting due to exposure to salt doesn’t matter to people in the 20 or so states that don’t use salt. Mazda still doesn’t move very big numbers in those areas, either.

      It isn’t an issue out side of the rust belt, unless you continuously expose it to salt water/air, or its a white Chevy Express or Lumina, 80s/90s Chrysler product, or any other car that looses large sections of its paint (flaking off) for no reason, exposing the bare metal to the elements.
      Even then, the vehicle is probably old enough that some surface rust won’t kill it, so who cares?

  • avatar

    Pretending to go upscale is meaningless until Mazda addresses its NVH problem.

    • 0 avatar

      And its school bus idle problem. Especially without school bus torque.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes. I was looking for that to be brought up in some fashion from the spokesman.

      Somethig like “you can expect better materials in a quiet and comfortable cabin”

      Just because something is fun to drive does not mean it needs to feel and sound like a Kia Rio inside.

  • avatar

    “which include a diesel option on next year’s CX-5.”

    Yay, just in time for the Diesel backlash as governments across the world realize the errors of their ways and start banning them from major cities.

  • avatar

    I honestly think Mazda is doing okay considering how small they are. They are growing and learning like Toyota and Honda did way back when.

    This sports car idea is cool, but also expensive, and they can’t afford to spend what little money they do have on a halo car that won’t sell enough to pay for itself.

    They are working on their NVH issues and hopefully that will only get better with time. As for the rust, they have gotten better on that, despite the stereotype that they haven’t. I had a 2008 Mazda3 as a daily driver for six years, including through the winter when Kentucky feels it’s necessary to dump tons of salt on the roads even when there isn’t much snow. And when I traded it in, it was still rust free. I crawled under it to inspect it out of curiosity and there was nothing out of the ordinary.

    I am a Mazda fanboy, I admit. But, I can see where they fall short. I test drove a 2016 3 with my friend two weeks ago, and it was too loud. I can see that. I don’t see my 6 as too loud, really, but maybe I am just used to it. Or maybe my 3 I had before, with its custom exhaust and lowering springs, was so loud in the first place (thanks to me) that any car after it seems quiet.

    I can’t wait to see the stuff Mazda comes up with in the future as they establish themselves within the market. They have already shown they will tweak and update cars frequently (the 6 was introduced in 2013 as a 2014 model and has already seen two minor refreshes), so I don’t see them ending up stagnant like Mitsubishi.

    I just really, really hope they give the 6 the turbo motor so the B&B will shut up about it.

  • avatar

    Thats your wagon:

  • avatar

    So many of you are saying “Bring a wagon to North America!!!”

    Those cars already exist: CX-5 and CX-9

    Americans love wagons, only in a lifted form factor. Selling a “true” wagon in the same showroom as the CX-5 and CX-9 may prove to be difficult.

    Look at VW. The ancient Tiguan is outselling the newer MQB Golf Sportwagen by more than 3 to 1 in 2016.

    With tighter emissions and efficiency requirements looming on the horizon, we can only hope car makers are forced into the traditional wagon form factor for it’s superior Cd and lower weight.

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